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January 18, 2018 Beyond The Dash

The Ultimate Funeral Planning Checklist

Things to consider immediately after a death has occurred

The Ultimate Funeral Planning Checklist
When someone dies, know your priorities. Find out what needs to be done right away, and what can wait until after the service. (Shutterstock)

If you've recently lost someone and have no idea where to start, use this checklist to make sure every detail is considered. 

𝥷 Choose a funeral home and make the call

There is plenty of confusion and trauma that occurs immediately after a death. In all the chaos, it's important to select the funeral home or organization that will be handling the care of your loved one.

Things to consider: 

  • Are they an organ donor? Let the coroner, nurse, doctor or other official know.

  • Where will the funeral be held? If your family is using a funeral home, choose one that is conveniently located for mourners to attend. 

  • What is your estimated funeral budget? You need to know a rough number in order to make the choice between burial and cremation.

𝥷 Order copies of the death certificate

You will need multiple true copies of the death certificate in order to go about planning the funeral. The executor particularly will need extras, so it is wise to be proactive in ordering a few. There will be a fee to order these, but it is typically less than $50 a copy.

𝥷 Locate the most recent will

It's important to quickly determine who the deceased appointed as executor of their estate. This person will act on behalf of the deceased person, making decisions on their behalf in accordance with the will. 

This person can set up estate bank accounts in the deceased person's name. They are responsible for planning the funeral, paying final bills, filing the final tax returns, and distributing assets once the estate is settled. 

𝥷 Notify loved ones

Family members and close friends should be notified of the death soon after it occurs. While you don't need to feel pressure to notify everyone right away, the people closest to the deceased should know within 24 hours, if possible. 

𝥷 Visit the funeral home

Whether your loved one is being cared for in a funeral home, crematory or other organization, it's time to visit or call to arrange the details. During this visit, you will make decisions about the handling and final resting destination of your loved one. 

Things to consider:

  • Coffin

  • Urn

  • Burial clothes

  • Music for the service

  • Memorial slideshow

  • Framed photos of the deceased person 

  • Eulogists

  • Pallbearers

  • Limousine or hearse transportation

  • Catering

  • Flowers

𝥷 Place an obituary

Once there is a funeral date, and all of the people closest to the deceased have been properly notified of the death, it is time to place the obituary notice.

The obituary notice acts as the final record of a person's life. It will last forever in archives, libraries and online as part of the public record. A basic death notice will list the birth and death date, milestones and funeral service arrangements. A detailed obituary will explore the unique character of the deceased, and tell the full, enduring life story. 

Things to consider:

  • Include a high-quality photo.

  • Publish in both print and online.

  • Invite family and friends to share photos and memories in the online guestbook.

  • In addition to the city where they last lived, publish the  in the deceased person's hometown newspaper, as well as any places they may have resided.

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A final word 

These are just a few of the things you need to handle directly after a death has occurred. 

It is not an exhaustive list. Once you begin, other necessary tasks will present themselves. Time is of the essence, but it's important to take some time to process your grief. If possible, take time off work to focus on making arrangements. You can also delegate responsibilities that do not require you to be present in person. 

By following this checklist, you should be able to arrange a funeral service that does the life of your loved one justice, with less stress to you and your family.

Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

After creating an online memorial, you can also publish in print in any of over 6,000 newspapers across North America.

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